By Lance Hill, Ph.D., Executive Director, Southern Institute for Education and Research
Today the Times-Picayune published an editorial “New Orleans Is A Happy Place to Be,” drawing on the recent Kaiser Foundation survey. The Kaiser survey did reflect increased optimism but it is a frank overview of the problems and racial disparities that bedevil the recover. Moreover, the survey did not interview any of the 100,000 people that the Census Bureau estimates remain displaced from the city. A 2008 Louisiana Family Recovery Corps survey indicated that 75% of displaced African Americans want to return but could not afford moving costs, housing, and had no employment prospects.
Kaiser plans to release the total datasets which would allow us to see the racial breakouts of all the responses, but they have released some additional data that pertains to the need for affordable housing: for example, 42 percent of African American respondents said they were renting their residence, nearly double the 24 percent of whites who rent.
Here is the link to the new Kaiser Foundation report: New Orleans Five Years After The Storm. Much of the local media has spun this as a feel-good report in which New Orleanians are more concerned with the Horizon Oil Spill than with the lingering effects of Katrina. In fact, a slight majority of respondents simply said they thought the oil spill “will cause more damage” than Katrina, which could be taken as an assessment of the larger Gulf-Coast impact of the spill. Indeed, seventy percent of the respondents think that America has forgotten the challenges facing New Orleans.
Some of the responses were broken out by race and they provide some useful insights into the difference of opinions between black and white storm victims and the different ways they continue to experience the impact of the storm.
From the report:
Compared to whites, African Americans in Orleans Parish…
--are more likely to say that both their own lives (42% vs. 16%) and the city in general (66% vs. 49%) have not yet recovered from Hurricane Katrina;
--are more than twice as likely to be living in a low-income household (61% compared to 24%);
--are more likely to report having had trouble paying for food or housing over the past year (both 31% vs. 8%);
--are more likely to report being uninsured (25% vs. 10%) and to have had problems paying medical bills (29% vs. 13%);
--are substantially more likely to report worries, such as the 64% who say they are very worried their children won’t be able to get a good education, compared to 18% of whites, and 59% who say they are worried health care services might not be available when needed (vs. 21% for whites);
--are more likely to see the city as a bad place to raise children (51% vs. 35%).